There's a predictability to Christmas panto which is sometimes charming but can also be rather tiresome.
Frances Richmond's production of Cinderella at Sutton Coldfield Town Hall for Richmond Ward Productions finds a delightful and inventive middle ground in this thoroughly entertaining tweak of an old classic.
It's panto that'll pull in the punters but pulls some surprises out of the bag too.
Katy Gaskin is charming as the show's leading lady and belts out each number with an elegance and ease beyond her years. Opposite her, Daniel Roberts is a suitably dashing and attractively foppish Prince Charming, while Brad Walwyn is refreshingly natural and funny on stage as his sidekick Dandini.
The action moves with pace and clarity, if a little clumsily at times with a couple of particularly long blackouts. But these didn't detract from the show and were often followed by Niko Adilypour heaping on light relief. Adilypour gives a commendable and engaging performance as the hapless Buttons with stage presence, comedy timing and appearance reminiscent of a young Joe Pasquale.
Some well-executed, impromptu puppetry provided neat interludes, appreciated particularly vocally by the younger members of the audience.
Special mention must go to Andy James Michel, who wrote this version, and Jamie Jones who combine to create a strikingly gruesome, hilarious and utterly memorable drag-style double act as Cinderella's ugly sisters Coco and Chanel. Jones as Chanel, making his debut with RWP, produced show-stealing delivery with magnificent poise and an outstanding stage presence. Elsewhere Patrick Richmond-Ward had the air of an old pro with his effortless delivery of Cindy's stingy father Baron Hard-up and Maura Judges had the audience tittering as her rather dotty Fairy Godmother.
Christmas panto is primarily about fun and RWP's production undoubtedly puts a big old tick in that box. It was, though, particularly refreshing to see a company take an old classic and add a few new touches in the form of some clever modern musical interludes, puppetry and other subtle touches.
Richmond and Michel can rest assured this witty, funny and thoroughly entertaining version of a familiar tale will have everyone leaving with a smile on their face.
Love Midlands Theatre
Sharing the latest theatre news and reviews around the Midlands.